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Review: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Directed by: Joaquim Dos Santos and Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson

Premise: A follow-up to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) discovers a society of Spider-Men from other realities. At the same time, supervillain Spot (voice of Jason Schwartzman) amasses the power to control the multiverse.

What Works: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse builds upon the story and style of its predecessor. Into the Spider-Verse introduced the concept of the multiverse and brought together different incarnations of Spider-Man from different realities and timelines. The 2018 film also concocted a bold animation style that brought comic book illustrations to life in a way that most live action films have never quite accomplished and probably cannot. Across the Spider-Verse runs with the multiverse concept and the animation style, intertwining them in ways that enhances both aspects of the film. Like its predecessor, Across the Spider-Verse uses a variety of animation styles for its different characters; different visual approaches are associated with each character. The filmmakers use those animated styles in a way that creates a vibrant on-screen world but also visualizes the collision of the different sensibilities associated with each character. Across the Spider-Verse takes the story to the next level with Miles Morales reconciling his superhero identity and family life and coping with an increasingly complex relationship with other Spider-Men. These are themes we’ve seen in other superhero films but rarely done this well. Miles’ relationship to his parents comes across authentic and it’s a quiet, humanistic counterpoint to the loud super-heroics. Across the Spider-Verse does its duty as a sequel, raising the stakes and advancing character, and the film achieves affecting emotional moments while also possessing a sense of humor.

What Doesn’t: Across the Spider-Verse is an excessive movie. 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse was fast paced and highly stylized and Across the Spider-Verse pushes the speed and extremity even further. The movie is sometimes overwhelmingly frantic. That’s especially true of scenes involving Hobie Brown (voice of Daniel Kaluuya), a punk rock style Spider-Man. The animation style associated with Hobie is sometimes hard to process especially due to the film’s constant action and rapid editing. Across the Spider-Verse is such a sensory overload, mostly sustained for its two-hour-and-twenty-minute running time, that it is exhausting to watch. As a multiverse story, Across the Spider-Verse reiterates conflicts and plot points we’ve seen in similar stories such as Everything Everywhere All at Once, the television show Loki, and the live action film Spider-Man: No Way Home. Across the Spider-Verse makes up for its lack of multiverse creativity in other ways, but this aspect of the story is familiar.

Bottom Line: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is an exceptional superhero film. Although some aspects of its story are familiar and the filmmaking is occasionally overdone, Across the Spider-Verse possesses the adventure and humor associated with Spider-Man while also achieving an artistry and craftsmanship that makes this one of the best superhero films.  

Episode: #952 (June 11, 2023)